I agree that the Lyn Macdonald book is excellent to get a real feel for what life was like in the salient at that time.
A book that you may like to consider though is Pillars of Fire which covers the Battle of Messines Ridge. This was a preliminary op but was also the most significant British success prior to mid-late 1918. You should visit the ground just to see the craters if for no other reason ........
Lyn Macdonald's They Called It Passchendaele is the best book I have read on the subject, if you are going on a battlefields tour then might be an idea to pick up Rose E Combe's Before Endvours Fade which is a good guide to First World War battlefields.
thanks guys will look into it - no idea where we are going yet (if I am lucky enough to be picked for trip) just wanted to read up on it in general terms so I know something about it. I only know Bruges so far...
Commonwealth War Graves Commission has built a Ypres history site, which has some excellent maps and summaries: http://www.cwgc.org/ypres/
I too would put Lyn MacDonald's book at the top of the list as a view of what the soldiers in the battle had to contend with.
There's also a book written in 1958, with enough perspective to be balanced, but close enough to draw on research with those who were there: "In Flanders Fields" by Leon Wolff. I've used it several times to provide notes for visits. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0140048960/?tag=armrumser-21
For a personal perspective, "Some Desperate Glory" by Edwin Campion Vaughan, is very moving. He was a platoon commander, who survived the war but was injured and died in the early 1930s. His family found his diaries, but were loath to show his mother, because of the vivid descriptions of the fighting. The diaries were re-discovered in the 1980s, and published. I only came across the book because my wife is his great-niece. I've used various of his descriptions for campaign studies and other visits. Those of his company who were killed are commemorated at Tyne Cot. It's so important that we remember that each of the names on the Menin Gate and at Tyne Cot, as well all the other memorials, represents a real person. Walking the ground covered by Campion Vaughan's company, and seeing the names of those whose deaths he records, begins to bring this home. There are various editions of his diary available - Amazon is the best place to look.
It's based on the IMW archives and includes matieral Poppy_Travel hasn't seen elsewhere such as the eye witness accounts by the men who crawled into no mans land to operate figure 11 targets used for feint "Chinese" attacks.
b)Walking the Salient: Ypres (Battleground Europe series) by Paul Reed - my favourite!
c)Passchendaele: Ypres (Battleground Europe) by Nigel Cave
Lyn MacDonald's book is a good tour de raison of the battle. another excellent and most readable Passchendale book is Leon Wolff's In Flanders Fields: Passchendaele 1917.
From reading your posts I think you will definitely get a lot from visiting Essex Farm CGWC, where john McRae apparently wrote In Flanders Field. It is a fascinating cemetary and the site is also amazing.
Further to Cuddles' post, Essex Farm CWGC Cemetary has a rebuilt RAP bunker, said to be the one McRae worked in.
Maj & Mrs Holt's Guide is excellent, and lists quite a number of "interesting" graves at Essex Farm and the like.
In Passchendaele itself, the church windows are stained glass with the badges of the Regiments that fought there.
I'd take a spin over to the German cemetary at Langemark if you get the chance. It's the only one in the area and only a couple of miles from Passchendaele village itself.
You might try and find a copy of this document pack Amazon linky although you'll probably have to try Alibris or similar.
If you can't find it, I'll lend you mine. It's got copies of attestation documents, medical records, aerial photos and suchlike, as well as a copy of the Fireplan just in case Mr Poppy want's to relive his lost youth.
Yes, Fluffybunny is quite correct. Visit Langemarck and spare a thought for the enemy fallen too.
One other grave particularly worth visiting is that of Noel Chavasse VC and Bar...in Brandhoek New Military Cemetary.
Eat early - after 21h00 ypres' restaurants are somewhat lacking! however beer is always available - try the Old Bill pub in Jacobstraat (opposite and just up from the new Novotel) and Old Tom's and Ter Posterie are must gos! I like Old Bill because it is more pubby than some of the others and you meet the CWGC gardeners in there.
I didn't get a place on the trip but have asked to be put on the reserves list - Otherwise I will have to persuade Mr Poppy to take me on a battlefield tour. I also want to go back to Arnhem as the museum was shut when I went before
Hope you get to make the trip. If you don't, do all in your power to make someone take you, it is very well worth it.
Whilst in Ypres, walk along the ramparts from the Menin Gate to Rampart Cemetery, a very relaxing walk if the weather is fine and the cemetery is quite beautufully set alongside the moat; you should also visit the In Flanders Fields Museum in the Cloth Hall. I agree that you should visit Langemark as well as Tyne Cott and I would do it in that order; from Tyne Cott you can look down, over the whole battlefield, to Ypres.
You might like to look at this site, it gives some good background on Third Ypres, plus maps and some detail on the first phase of the battle, with details of the later stages promised to follow. You can also find information on other battles and on the organisation of the Army in 1914-18, it's an excellent site if you are interested in the Great War.
Passchendaele in Perspective, The Third Battle of Ypres, ed. by Peter H. Liddle and published by Pen & Sword. This is a collection of scholarly but very readable essays on different aspects of the battle - an excellent antidote to the "Oh What A Lovely War"/Blackadder school of WW1 "history".